Wait for your train under the shade of Japan’s only train station platform vineyard.

In Japan, just about every city boasts at least one local specialty, where the climate, soil composition and geographical location combine to create the perfect growing conditions for a particular product.

It’s the reason why biscuits containing eel are so popular in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture and almond butter is sought after in Hyogo’s Himeji City. And in a city called Shiojiri in Nagano Prefecture, the claim to fame that draws visitors from far and wide is wine grapes.

The city is so famous for grape production that it can also lay claim to another unique feature: it’s home to Japan’s one and only station platform vineyard. Designed to catch the attention of visitors from the very moment they step foot in the city, the vineyard is tended to by Japan Rail staff, along with volunteers and members of the city’s tourist association, under the guidance of Shiojiri grape farmers.

The wine grapes produced in Shiojiri City have earned an extremely high reputation in Japan, led by the world-famous “Kikyogahara Merlot“, produced in Kikyogahara, which retails for well over 10,000 yen (US$93.49) per bottle.

The grapes cultivated on the platform are the red Merlot variety and the white Niagara variety, which will be harvested in autumn and used to make Shinshu wine. Shinshu, an old name for Nagano, is one of Japan’s leading wine-producing regions, making wines from the area highly sought after throughout the country.

▼ The grapes were first planted on the platform in 1988 to promote wine grapes as one of Shiojiri’s major industries.

▼ The vineyard is located on platform three and four at Shiojiri Station.

▼ The sign reads: “The only train station platform vineyard in Japan”

▼ This video, shared by the Shiojiri City Tourist Association, shows volunteers covering the grapes to protect them from rain during the rainy season.

Despite not being grown in a traditional vineyard environment, the grapes look incredibly healthy, thanks to the work of volunteers who tend to them throughout the growing season, which begins in earnest around May each year.

In recent years, the station has been holding a Wine Bar event to showcase Shiojiri wines under the shade of the platform vineyard every September. The event is open to commuters with train tickets, while non-commuters can purchase tickets to the station platform for 140 yen per person, with a free glass of wine included.

At last year’s event, held on 7 and 27 September, wines were priced from 300 yen a glass, while grape juice could be purchased for 150 yen.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear if or when the bar event will be held this year. To keep up to date with notices about the platform vineyard and the wine bar event, you might want to keep an eye on the tourist association’s TwitterFacebook and Instagram accounts for further details.

And if you’re looking for more novel wine experiences in Japan, don’t forget to check out this green matcha wine from Uji in Kyoto.

Source: Shiojiri City Tourist Association, Twitter/@info40430583
Featured image: Twitter/@info40430583
Insert images: Twitter/@info40430583 

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